We are happy to announce that the South Asia Religions (SARI) Unit will be sponsoring the following panel and roundtables at the 2022 AAR Annual Meeting:

New Directions in the South Asian Religions Saturday, 12:30 PM – 2:30 PM Convention Center-301 (Street Level)The New Directions panel introduces new research in the study of language and religion in South Asia by recently-graduated Ph.D. students and doctoral candidates. From studies of devotional lyrics and performance genres to grammatical oddities and theories of translation, the papers in this panel show that the language of religion matters as much as its content. Panelists also demonstrate that religious concepts themselves can create new forms in both transregional and regional languages, from Sanskrit and Persian to Tamil and Telugu. Panelists:


Kristina Rogahn, University of Toronto: “Building Word-Temples”: Relating the Devotional Lyric in Modern Tamil
Guy St Amant, Columbia University: God and Grammar: Śaiva Approaches to Non-Standard Sanskrit Aalekhya Malladi, Emory University: Satyabhāma, Vairāgya, and Devotion in Telugu Performance Genres Shahid Khan, Independent Scholar: Two Sufic Translations of the Bhagavadgita
Responding: Ali Altaf Mian, University of Florida


Religion and/as Labor Sunday, 9:00 AM – 11:00 AM Convention Center-302 (Street Level)
This panel explores several practices in contemporary South Asian religions as forms of labor, including women’s domestic puja (ritual worship), sieva (devotional service) in the name of guru-led movements, and devotional musical performance. The panel’s four papers offer anthropological data from different regions of South Asia which collectively demonstrate the centrality of human labor—paid and unpaid, manual and intellectual, private and public— in the construction of religious life. Collectively, the papers explore the dynamics through which human religious labor creates value, both spiritual and material, and how this value is subject to various processes of extraction, exchange, commodification, compensation, and monetization. The panel illustrates how religious work becomes even more complex in the contexts of flexible caste identity, gendered divisions of labor, the spiritual authority of gurus, and debates on the validity of devotional labor.Panelists: Ashlee Andrews, University of North Carolina, Greensboro: The Value of Hindu Women’s Domestic Worship (and Other Reproductive Labor) Andrew Kunze, Purdue University: Advertising Seva: Devotional Labor and the Gift of Free Press in Swaminarayan Hinduism Priya Kothari, University of California, Berkeley: Between Marga and Sampradaya: Divinely Graced Labor in the Vallabha Devotional Community Joel Lee, Williams College: The Bhajan Singer and the Qawwal: Caste and the Labor of Performance
Responding: Amanda Lucia, University of California, RiversideBusiness Meeting: 10:30-11:00 Jennifer Ortegren, Middlebury College, Presiding Sarah Pierce Taylor, University of Chicago, Presiding


Race, Caste and Conversion in Colonial South Asia (co-sponsored with the Religious Conversions Unit) Sunday, 12:30 PM – 2:30 PM Convention Center-301 (Street Level)
In the accounts of missionaries, social reformers, and converts alike, one finds representations of race and caste as impervious to change, even when so much else changed in the course of conversion and religious reform.  Racial and caste identities were sometimes seen as rooted in bodies and other times in the individual’s social bonds with others in larger social units. But either way, discourse about conversion served to construct caste and race as fixed features of the self, inherent and unchangeable.  These supposedly fixed features defined the many layers of self-hoods for converts and social reformers, circulating in vernacular concepts and language that became standardized over time.  This discourse both strengthened the fixed categories of race and caste as ways in which converts demarcated their belonging to Christianity and Islam as Indian religions, and created a shared conceptual basis for new identities and senses of community to emerge.Panelists:
Afsar Mohammad, University of Pennsylvania: The Idiom of Conversion: Local Sufi Narratives and the Making of a Casteless Being Torsten Tschacher, Free University of Berlin: Diagnosing ‘Ignorance’: Conversion, Race, and Reform among Muslims in Madras and Ceylon Deepra Dandekar, Free University of Berlin: From Humble Hut to Heavenly Palace Eliza Kent, Skidmore College: The Racialization of Sin and Salvation: Pandita Ramabai and the Discourse of Conversion and Social Reform Megan Robb, University of Pennsylvania: Becoming Elizabeth: The Christian Conversion of a Mughal Lady in the 18th century
Responding Brian A. Hatcher, Tufts University


Teaching South Asian Islam(s) Sunday, 3:00 PM – 4:30 PM Embassy Suites-Aspen B (Third Level)
“How do we teach South Asia Islam(s)?” South Asian Islam(s) often receives relatively less attention in introductory Islam courses and relatively more emphasis on historical periods, dynasties, texts, and philological approaches in different types of South Asian Islam courses. Panelists in this roundtable will present and discuss specific pedagogical approaches and exercises shaped by our different teaching contexts that bring together the vernacular and philological, among other approaches, to address South Asian Islam(s) specifically and enable it to speak back to Islamic studies and religious studies. We will also address issues of subjectivity and positionality in our pedagogical methods. The roundtable aims to open teaching-oriented conversations with scholars of Islam who may teach “Islam in South Asia,” scholars of other South Asian religions who teach Islam in “South Asian Religions” survey courses and scholars seeking to diversify their “Introduction to Islam” courses.Panelists: Ali Altaf Mian, University of Florida Hinasahar Muneeruddin, University of North Carolina Jennifer Ortegren, Middlebury College Anand Taneja, Vanderbilt University Teena Purohit, Boston University Karen Ruffle, University of Toronto


South Asia Beyond the Indo-Persian: Scholarly Flows Between Iran and India Monday, 12:30 PM – 2:30 PM Hyatt Regency-Mineral G (Third Level)
This panel seeks to examine a set of diverse strands of Persianate discursive tradition in a broader effort to interrogate the Indo-Persian category, attending to the religious in full socio-historical and intellectual light. By attending to both particulars of juridical practice and the sociology of juridical culture, as well as philosophical ideas in doctrinal Sufism and the translation of Indic literature across pre-modern India, we aim to display a wide diversity of scholarly exchange in order to then examine different historical trajectories and trends, with an eye towards common transformations and patterns of disjuncture. While historians have long been interested in the Persianate cosmopolis, we take this further by putting multiple different kinds of scholarly exchange together and pointing to common threads that might clothe stark distinctions. The papers in this panel thus take on law, literature, and philosophical Sufism from Iran to India from a number of angles. Panelists: Nariman Aavani, Harvard University: Intellectual Networks Between Iran and India in Mughal India: Muḥammad Dihdār Shīrāzī (d. 1610) on Unity of Being (waḥdat al-wujūd) Shahrad Shahvand, Harvard University: A Legal Dispute in Mughal Lahore: Qadi Nurullah Shushtari (d. 1610)’s Critique of the Later Hanafi Scholars of Transoxiana Latifeh Aavani, Harvard University: From India to Iran: The Narrative of the Shi’i Ulama on Islamic Reformism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries Raihan Ahmed, University of Virginia: Re-Locating 15th Century Indian Sufism in the Global Islamicate: Mahāʾimī’s Irāʾah al-Daqāʾiq”Ethics of Conviction: Negotiating Gender, Caste, and Religion in India Monday, 3:00 PM – 4:30 PM Convention Center-301 (Street Level)

This panel analyzes how members of various communities in India negotiate different forms of authority and conflict in ways that resist, reject, reframe and/or reclaim their own voices and power. From Muslim women in South India bypassing traditional male religious authority to the role of the maternal figure in shaping notions of the Dalit citizen to how online mourning practices enable Muslims to lament in ways actively denied to them by the state, these papers reveal the ways in which gender, religion, and/or caste identities intersect both in the production of socio-religious and political authority and conflict— within and between communities—and the efforts to transcend or transform it. Harini Kumar,* University of Chicago: Cultivating Authority: Muslim Women, Islamic Pedagogy, and Ethical Life in South India
*Please note that the this is also a New Directions paper
Drishadwati Bargi, University of Minnesota: Becoming maternal, becoming conscientious? Inner conviction and the image of the Dalit dissenter in times of Hindu Majoritarianism Zehra Mehdi, Columbia University: Remembering to Mourn, Mourning to Remember: Majilis as a site of political resistance. Responding Anand Taneja, Vanderbilt University


A Splendid Land: Udaipur at the Smithsonian (co-sponsored with Arts, Literature and Religion Unit and Hinduism Unit) Tuesday, 8:30 AM – 10:00 AM Convention Center-301 (Street Level) On November 19, 2022—just as the AAR annual meetings begin in Denver—the National Museum of Asian Art will unveil a splendid exhibit entitled, appropriately, “A Splendid Land: Paintings from Royal Udaipur.” In this AAR roundtable, religionists respond from a number of angles. In 7-minute presentations experts address: (1) the literary genre of nagaravarnana, description of a city, in Hindu epics; (2) the city descriptions (vijnaptipatra) by means of which lay Jains sought to attract monastic Jains to their cities for their monsoon retreats; (3) Udaipur as a mythic city in the modern day—from local, non-elite perspectives; (4) an illustrated manuscript that draws a poem by Tulsidas into Udaipur’s lakeside landscape; (5) other pages that do the same for poems attributed to Surdas; (6) what it means, religiously speaking, to “perform place”; and (7) anticipated reactions from Hindus, Jains, and South Asian “Nones” here in North America. Panelists Nell Hawley, Harvard University John E. Cort, Denison University Jennifer Ortegren, Middlebury College Philip Lutgendorf, University of Iowa Jack Hawley, Barnard College, Columbia University Manpreet Kaur, Columbia University Vasudha Narayanan, University of Florida


The Monastery in South Asia Tuesday, 10:30 AM – 12:00 PM Convention Center-301 (Street Level)The monastery in South Asia has long been siloed within discussions of world-renouncing asceticism. Even with the welcome turn to critical analyses of the logics of monastic governance, the scholarly gaze has remained cloistered within the monastic walls, adverting to the alien logic of its maintenance. By constituting the South Asian monastery as a category of comparative study, this panel proposes to relocate the study of this institution where it belongs, firmly entrenched in the networks of power–economic, ethical, geographic, and governmental–that constitute and are constituted by such social institutions. The papers in this panel focus on the mechanisms of monastic subject-formation as a site for the analysis of the logic of monastic governance. By examining modes of governance that were developed in Buddhist, Jaina and Hindu monastic orders, this panel attempts to resituate the monastery as an alternative source of political and social order in South Asia.Upali Sraman, Emory University: Rival Monastic Groups and the Messiness of Ethical Practice in Buddhist Vinaya Texts Harsha Gautam, University of Texas: To Discuss, Defend and Dissent: Locating the Agency of the Students in the Saṅgha Christopher Fleming, University of Oxford: The Royal Supervision of Monastic Religious Endowments in Medieval India: Jurisprudence and Epigraphy Nabanjan Maitra, University of Texas: How a Great Tradition Universalizes: The Digvijaya Reconsidered